Saturday, 16 March 2013

Film Review | Devil (2010)

Promoted as the first part of "The Night Chronicles", of which we've yet to see any further installments released, Devil's screenplay is developed from a story by M. Night Shyamalan, who also serves as a producer. But whilst Devil lacks (for the better) the pretention of Shyamalan's recent efforts as director, it also lacks the invention and originality of his earlier, better regarded films.

After a flimsy opening and a first act that feels like it belongs buried deep within a TV movie channel way after most of us have gone to bed, Devil actually manages to settle into a pleasing if unremarkable blend of supernatural horror and claustrophobic whodunnit. Whilst some elements are automatically redundant - a brief subplot involving whether there is a motive for one of the five imprisoned in the lift to be killed seems pointless, considering how blatantly the message that what is happening is the work of the Devil is constantly put across - others work relatively well. The choice to have much of the pivotal action take place within a broken down lift is a positive, although it's never explored quite as much as you'd hope.

This ultimately ends up being Devil's downfall: it never goes far enough down one route to become more than overwhelmingly average. The scares are neither frequent nor effective enough to make this a genuinely successful horror, nor is director John Erick Dowdle's tongue nearly far enough into his cheek for this to pass as an entertaining B-movie homage. The story is too simplistic and its characters too lacking in depth or detail to allow the audience to engage on more than a rudimentary level at any point either. By the time Devil lays its cards on the table in the final fifteen minutes, the reaction it receives will be more akin to the end of The Happening than The Sixth Sense.

Devil never does enough right to be truly memorable, nor does it make too many mistakes to be considered awful. At just an hour and a quarter in length it never has the chance to become tedious, but this also highlights the slight nature of everything presented here. In the end it sits, much like a broken lift, between the basement of oblivion below and the penthouse suite of greatness so far above.


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